Charlotte’s mayoral candidates sparred over affordable housing Wednesday night – after one said the city had no place in the housing business at all.
The major Democratic candidates were joined by Republican Gary Dunn at a forum sponsored by Sustain Charlotte, a nonprofit that promotes a liveable community. Candidates answered questions about transportation, air and water quality and climate change. But it was a question about affordable housing that prompted one of the sharpest exchanges.
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“I don’t think the city should be in the housing business,” Dunn told the audience at UNC Charlotte’s Center City Building. “You want to house everybody cheaply. Really? … Are we Howard Johnsons? Are we the Marriott?”
“That has to be one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard in my life,” responded state Sen. Joel Ford, a former chair of the Charlotte Housing Authority.
“We don’t have a housing problem,” he added. “We have an affordability problem.”
Ford said the city has seen little leadership on the issue. Vi Lyles, the mayor pro tem, took issue with that.
“This isn’t about leadership, because there are many people who lead in this community on this,” she said, citing a number of ongoing housing efforts.
Mayor Jennifer Roberts called affordable housing a “crisis.” She said City Council had made it a priority.
Throughout the forum, Roberts and Lyles touted their records. Ford called for new leadership and said he could work with the Republican-controlled General Assembly to advance the city’s agenda.